The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

President Obama Says Guantanamo Closure Will Miss Deadline

Prison Should Be Closed As Soon As Possible While Upholding Rule Of Law, Says ACLU


Obama acknowledged today that the administration will miss its January
deadline for closing the Guantanamo prison camp. The delay is due in
part to the difficulty of finding countries that will accept those
detainees who have been cleared for release, the Obama administration's
willingness to continue indefinitely detaining prisoners without charge
or trial and attempts in Congress to obstruct the transfer of detainees
to U.S. soil.

According to the Washington Post, of
the remaining 215 Guantanamo detainees, approximately 90 have been
cleared for release and administration officials have said they expect
to prosecute about 40 in federal court or military commissions. These
numbers leave unclear the administration's plans for the rest of the
detainees. The American Civil Liberties Union opposes both the use of
military commissions and the indefinite detention without charge or
trial of detainees suspected of terrorism crimes.

Also today in a congressional
hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Eric
Holder defended the administration's plans to prosecute the 9/11
detainees in federal court while also reasserting the administration's
position that it has the authority to hold some detainees indefinitely
without charge or trial.

The following can be attributed Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU:

"It is troubling that the
administration will miss its January deadline for closing the
Guantanamo prison, which has become a symbol of American lawlessness
and human rights violations. Guantanamo will continue to be a stain on
our reputation for as long as it remains open, and it should be closed
as soon as possible.

"However, as important as it is to
close Guantanamo soon is that it be closed right. With the closure of
Guantanamo must also come the end of the policies that the prison
stands for, including unlawful indefinite detention without charge or
trial. After seven and a half years of indefinite detention without due
process, any Guantanamo detainee the government lacks the evidence to
prosecute in federal court should be repatriated or transferred to a
country where he won't be tortured.

"We're encouraged that the Senate
has finally shown some spine and twice this month defeated legislation
that would have obstructed plans to try the detainees in federal
criminal courts. Congress should continue to stand strong against
fear-mongering attempts to thwart the administration's plans to close
Guantanamo. Our criminal justice system is more than capable of
providing both fair trials and security, and is the only way to achieve
the real and reliable justice that Americans deserve.

"Whether or not the administration
meets its deadline for closure, it must not abandon its commitment to
American values. President Obama's promise to close Guantanamo was an
important commitment that must be honored, but it will be nothing more
than a symbolic gesture if we continue the shameful policies of
Guantanamo on American soil, at Bagram or anywhere else."

The following can be attributed to Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel:

"Attorney General Holder deserves to
be commended for his strong defense today, under hostile questioning
from Republican senators, of his decision to prosecute the 9/11
defendants in our federal court system where American values are upheld
and fair trials can be provided.

"At the same time, we are concerned
that Holder suggested the possibility that the administration could
continue to detain Guantanamo terrorism suspects indefinitely without
charge or trial. If the administration has evidence against these
detainees, it should prosecute them in federal court. If not, it should
repatriate them or relocate them to safe havens."

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

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